Images of the Zodiac: Contemplating Taurus


Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked,
I cried to dream again.

Shakespeare, The Tempest (monologue of Caliban)

Spring weather is finally here, the Great Goddess, who is “the returning greenness of the grass after winter’s frost” (a quote from Anthony Aveni’s Conversations with the Planets)  is with us in Europe, and there is a nice planetary line-up in the sign of Taurus, which compels me to return to Johfra’s paintings of the Zodiac.

In the painting there are two goddesses: one ethereal and heavenly on the left in the background and the other sensual, bodily and earthly in the centre. It is a pattern with Jofhra to depict the signs of the Zodiac like this: juxtaposing their traditional, exoteric meaning with their hidden, spiritual and esoteric significance.

The one who is sitting on the left hand side in the background is the High Priestess of the tarot deck, holding the keys to the power of our instinctual nature and all its hidden mysteries. Her body is completely covered, because she is the high priestess. She is clad in a green robe strengthening her connection with nature and vegetation cycles (ruled by the Moon, hence the goddess’ crown showing the Moon’s waxing, full and waning phases). Green has always been the colour of healing, resurrection and new life, life in full bloom and glory that we observe in the months ruled by Taurus. As Mephistopheles said in Faust: “My friend, all theory is grey, and green the golden tree of life.” I found it interesting to read that in the Middle Ages doctors were clad in green. In modern times medicine distanced itself from nature and the profession is no longer associated with green. Johfra wrote that the goddess is Isis herself, the one who brought the dismembered Osiris back to life. One of her epithets was Creatress of Green Things or Green Goddess giving birth to the fruits of the earth. The crescent moon at her feet was actually one of the attributes of Isis in ancient Egypt. It was also associated with bull’s horns. The cross on her chest is the cross of matter, embodiment and manifestation, and as Johfra puts it, “the four elements that are the basis of material revelation.”  A few clarifications need to be made at this juncture. I am not limiting Isis to the Taurus archetype. She was a versatile goddess, who seemed to encompass a lot of aspects of the divine feminine principle. Egyptians themselves associated her with Virgo. She is related to Taurus only in one aspect, I believe; namely as a lunar goddess she was associated with the Moon, which in astrology is exalted in the sign of Taurus. Taurus is indeed the archetype of fertility, receptivity and flowing with the Tao (or the wu wei principle), all of which bears close affinity to the Moon symbolism. Also Eliade, a famous Romanian historian of religion, writes that the bull with its horns resembling crescent moon was a lunar creature, symbolic of the receptive mother earth.

The priestess is sitting between two pillars: Jachin and Boaz. My knowledge of Kabbalah or Freemasonry is rather limited and that is why I am going to quote Jofhra on this. He talks about “the red marble positive pillar of force or strength Jachin on the right, and the black marble negative pillar of form Boaz on the left.” In other words, the pillars seem to correspond to the active male polarity paired with the receptive female polarity. I have also found this distinction:

  • Boaz means strength, but not in a physical sense. It refers to a higher strength, a spiritual strength of awareness of the indestructibility of the real being, the Spirit.

  • Jakin means solidity, stability, expressing that the initiate has overcome the human life fluctuations and reached the stage of Being, standing in the eternal present.


Both definitions resonate with the essential meaning of Taurus, which to me comprises strength and steadfastness of Boaz with Jakin’s quality of being present and centred in the moment. After all, Taurus is the second sign, so this duality is very fitting. All becomes connected if we remember that Taurus is the sign of mystics. Both Buddha and for example Krishnamurti were born under the sign of Taurus and both of them spoke of the need to overcome the endless cycle of craving. Eckhart Tolle very fittingly has his Moon in Taurus, which resonates strongly with his power of now message. Stillness, pure being, contentedness and centredness characterize the highest expression of Taurean energy.  It is extremely hard to choose just one quote from Krishnamurti that would capture what I am trying to say. To me, all of his teachings expressed the evolved energy of Taurus. However, the following quote captures my heart (I’ve got my astrological Moon, i.e. my nurturing and emotional aspect, in Taurus) because it shows Taurus as a sensual sign (the sign of the senses), the one able to sit still and listen to the music of the universe:

Attention involves seeing and hearing. We hear not only with our ears but also we are sensitive to the tones, the voice, to the implication of words, to hear without interference, to capture instantly the depth of a sound. Sound plays an extraordinary part in our lives: the sound of thunder, a flute playing in the distance, the unheard sound of the universe; the sound of silence, the sound of one’s own heart beating; the sound of a bird and the noise of a man walking on the pavement; the waterfall. The universe is filled with sound. This sound has its own silence; all living things are involved in this sound of silence. To be attentive is to hear this silence and move with it.

This will sound so sentimental but as I am writing this, I am looking at a large tree behind my window with birds singing perched on its branches covered in white flowers in full bloom. There seems to be a gentle breeze blowing. The same idyllic atmosphere of serenity permeates Jofhra’s vision of Taurus. The warrior, tired after all that running he did in the phase of Aries (, has fallen into deep slumber, having perhaps satiated his desires or just being overcome by the gentle feeling of inertia. Fresh greenery, rivulets meandering in the bucolic countryside and the children playing happily, all create the feeling of peaceful restfulness and soothing tranquility that Taurus rejoices in. On a day like this we desire nothing else but lie down on the grass and just breathe in absolute stillness.

The middle part of the painting carries a deepest symbolic meaning and is its centre of gravity (gravity being a very Taurean word). The woman is Europa abducted by Jupiter who took the form of the bull. Europa was rather willing to be abducted, there was nothing dramatic in the mythical story (unlike in the myth of Persephone, which has more dark and Scorpionic undertones). Europa surrendered gently to the force of Jupiter’s desire, a gentle passivity being yet another quality of Taurus. The bull could also be Apis, the most sacred animal in the ancient Egypt. It was the symbol of strength, fertility and the cyclic renewal of life. The goddess could be then interpreted as Hathor, the cow goddess, who was the Egyptian equivalent of the Greek Aphrodite. A hymn to her shows the connection of the sign of Taurus to music and singing (Taurus rules the throat): “Thou art the Mistress of Jubilation, the Queen of the Dance, the Mistress of Music, the Queen of the Harp Playing, the Lady of the Choral Dance, the Queen of Wreath Weaving, the Mistress of Inebriety Without End”. She was looked upon as the embodiment of the Milky Way, the milk of which was believed to have flowed from the udders of a heavenly cow. She was a patron of all beautiful objects, which resonates with Taurean energy because people with a strong energy of that sign have a strong aesthetic sense. There is a myth that she cured Ra of depression by dancing in front of him. She was the embodiment of strength, certainty and a lack of doubt for ancient Egyptians.

The goddess can also be seen as Venus, the ruler of the sign Taurus. I find it interesting that the name ‘Venus’ comes from Sanskrit vanas meaning desire. She is the embodiment of desire that Mars lying at her feet just had to surrender to. The goddess riding the white bull certainly oozes primal eroticism. Venus the morning star shines over her head and she is holding a burning lamp, which, according to Johfra, is assigned to Venus in the Kabbalah. The rich girdle and the roses as well as the two white doves are also listed among the attributes of Venus. The body of the goddess is draped in green veil but she has nothing to hide, proudly presenting her bodily aspect, which is typical of Taureans who often feel natural oneness with their bodies and show high awareness of it. Eros, shown as the flying Cupid, is the son of Aphrodite (at least according to some versions of the myth), while the Greek word erasthai means love and desire. In other versions of the myth, notably in Hesiod, Eros was a primordial god like Gaia, which means he had no parents. He represents the immortal force of desire that has always been and always will be. It is worth pointing out that the word libido was introduced into psychology by Freud, whose Sun was also in Taurus. He was a self-appointed expert on human desires and drives.

Taurean on their spiritual paths need to transmute their desires before they can reach enlightenment or at least higher consciousness and understanding. Here I give you Krishnamurti’s take on desire and its essential nature:

Desire is the outcome of sensation, the outcome with all the images that thought has built. And this desire not only breeds discontent but a sense of hopelessness. Never suppress it, never discipline it but probe into the nature of it — what is the origin, the purpose, the intricacies of it? To delve deep into it is not another desire, for it has no motive; it is like understanding the beauty of a flower, to sit down beside it and look at it. And as you look it begins to reveal itself as it actually is — the extraordinarily delicate colour, the perfume, the petals, the stem and the earth out of which it has grown. So look at this desire and its nature without thought which is always shaping sensations, pleasure and pain, reward and punishment. Then one understands, not verbally, nor intellectually, the whole causation of desire, the root of desire. The very perception of it, the subtle perception of it, that in itself is intelligence. And that intelligence will always act sanely and rationally in dealing with desire.

Naturally, not every Taurean would be capable of such a form of spiritual attainment. Perhaps the light that Venus is holding or the star of Venus shining over her head can be related to Enlightenment.

I relate to this painting on an emotional level having my Moon in Taurus. It pleases me esthetically with the choice of colours, notably the richly embroidered copper frame (copper being the metal of Venus). I think it shows perfectly and beautifully the unity of spirit and matter and the essence of the Taurus archetype, which speaks of the spiritual force that shapes and animates all manifested form.

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Related posts:

Why I Love Symbols

Images of the Zodiac: Contemplating Aries

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48 Responses to Images of the Zodiac: Contemplating Taurus

  1. “…holding the keys to the power of our instinctual nature and all its hidden mysteries.”
    For the first time, I realized how little I know about our instinctual nature, not to mention any power it may provide. I always feel a pang in my chest when I get a glimpse of how much I do not know.

    On a different note, I am mesmerized by your ability to wield your background in myth, and use your understanding of archetypes so universally, and diversely. Insights like how the moon ties in the feminine idea and vegetative cycles, those are illuminating enough, but to understand the symbolic meaning of the color green–for example– then be able to meditate and muse on where it applies to culture, that is tantamount to a vast language that I do not have at my disposal, and I feel the lack of it pretty acutely at the moment.

    Thanks again for a thoughtful post SymbolReader. This morning, the universe just got larger in my eyes.


  2. Reblogged this on The RunningFather Blog and commented:
    When you find substance, it is good to share it. For those who navigate the waters of astrological symbolism and myth, Take a long breath, exhale, and visit SymbolReader, aka Monica and her *substantive* and lyrical contemplation of Taurus.


  3. tig23 says:

    Hello, I’m just letting you know I’ve nominated you for the Sunshine Award. Congratulations! 🙂


  4. I have been thinking of writing a post on Taurus and Incarnation, but your writing almost makes me think I have no need, as you have illuminated this archetype so wondrously (I probably will still write one, though). There is so much about this post I admire, but especially love how your concluding quote from Krishnamurti sums meaning up on so many levels. Including that your own writing integrates the depth of Taurus, and we, your readers, can take in the sensation of your words and feel the archetype of Taurus open up to us like a bloom in full. Here in the pacific northwest of the USA, we are also having beautiful days, with birdsong in white and pink bloomed trees. Beautiful work, thank you for your effort and desire to share this meaning- I feel your choice of words conveys this all so well, in a way that can be understandable to many people who may not previously have had a deep knowledge of astrology before reading this. Thank you for bringing the Buddha and Krishnamurti- this side of Taurus is a more recent awareness of mine and one I also hope to explore in my own writing.


  5. Great post. The first thing I notice, is that the female pope is in the back! I left the tarot deck out of my ‘female pope’ post, to get to it another time. Interesting. I could not digest the whole post yet, there is so much information in it! The first thing I will look into are the two pillars. Well done. Namaste. 🙂


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  8. I immediately thought of Artemis of Ephesus, a cult statue that has been found all over! It’s here: It’s been suggested that those breast-like things, which may indeed be breasts, may also be bull testicles (Moon plus bull fertility). Good stuff! And as an FYI, both Bob Dylan and Marx are Taureans. Neither are too shocking, but I’m particularly fond of the fact that the person who wrote Capital and so much more was a fixed Earth sign. 😉


    • Yeah, I know this image! Extremely powerful, isn’t it?
      Other famous Taureans are of course Hitler and Stalin – the bull power gone wrong, I guess. I did not know about Bob Dylan, but it makes a lot of sense.


      • Ouf! I didn’t know about Stalin, although I had a friend born on the 20th of April.. — However, redeeming that date is Crispin Glover and Killer Mike.


      • Crispin Glover, wow!


      • Yeah! And that’s the redemption of Hitler’s Birthday! The other one that I know of is the guy who made this: I consider it a pretty powerful birth date — not good, not bad — but watch that person because they’re something else.


      • I was wrong about Stalin, he was a Sagittarius! Sorry.
        That video is fantastic, really thank you for the link.
        The Sabian symbol for the first degree of Taurus is ‘a clear mountain stream,’ go figure with Hitler how it would fit. Perhaps it is his unrealized path, the one he could have taken.


      • No need to apologize. I’m surprised to hear that Stalin is a Sadge and I’ll have to think on that. They’re generally incredibly freedom-loving. Glad you liked the video; I’m a huge fan.
        As perverse as it may sound at first blush, I think the Sabian symbol works for Hitler. His designs were horrid, but he was very above board and honest about it — Mein Kampf had already been published. He wasn’t sneaky at all.


      • Also, his obsession with purging would correspond with the symbol. He wanted to keep the Aryan race clean… Simple mindedness and avoiding intellectual complications.


      • Yes. You’re absolutely right. And “purity” is a pretty problematic concept across the board.


  9. it is all quite fabulous – i too wrote a book ‘Steller India’ which i have not had the time to publish – it is gathering dust – my book on the Gita raced ahead – thye book is about the unbelievable obsession of Indians with astrology – it is aided and abetted by the fact that Hiduism sanctions and collaborates with astrology and all good Indian priests the Brahmins have to be astrologers to help their ‘flock’ with their daily astrological requirements which often merge with prayer!! I suppose you already know that our astrology is lunar.


    • I have reverence for Indian astrology, but I do not know much about it. It is much more fatalistic than the Western one from what I have seen.
      Are you familiar with Tiziano Terzani? I think you and him have a lot in common.


      • it is unbelievably complex, mathematical and universally practiced here – we also have a 17th century observatory in my city which unesco considers one of the little wonders of the world where giant instruments, tall as 5 storied buildings having scales to calculate the movements of the planets sun and moon for enabling astrological calculations locally. This here in Jaipur is a wierd world entirely taken in by it from marriages, to birth charts to inaugurations of homes -you name it – even when one can proceed on a journey – everyone – all the time!!! The thick almanacs of steller movement are annually available in the markets and extensively used from PrimeMinisters to street cleaners – that is why i wrote the book – on no moon days for instance no labourer will turn up for construction activity and our friends from the west just dont know why that happened – on saturdays at red lights on the roads urchins will come with Lord Saturn in a bucket of mustard oil and you must drop a coin or else – beware lord saturn’s effects – people go to the Saturn temple on saturdays to ward off his influence and on and on – lol


      • This is truly fascinating. I would feel at home there. I asked about Tiziano Terzani because he also wrote a great book entitled A Fortune Teller Told Me about his sojourns in the East. I wonder if you have heard of him.


      • No but I shall try and find out who he si thanks


  10. leroywatson4 says:

    Dear One, what a thing this is? I am a Taurus, born on the 20th. My sister and some friends are also Taureans, we’re forming a bull movement! Thank you for sharing such wonderful knowledge, I love the diverse lineages intertwined here. I’ve never been very interested in Astrology, the science itself is fascinating, but it has never connected with me, until now that is. Your description of a Taurean has struck me on a fine level, it seems all the answers are written in the stars after all. I see you’ve visited the Beach House, lovely to have you here! You may also fancy a trip on the ‘turtle’ my other blog, more poetry and mysticism than veggie cooking. Peace and Thank you, lee


  11. leroywatson4 says:

    Reblogged this on Riding effortlessly on a large green turtle and commented:
    May is here, the month of my birth which I share with Bob Dylan, Buddha, Hitler, Krishnamurti and Marx. We are a varied bunch us Taureans. I have never read anything Astrological that connects so deeply. Symbol Reader is a wonderful place, where long threads of astrology, ancient wisdom and folklore are intertwined and merge into something spectacular and evocative.
    ‘Don’t be confused by surfaces; in the depths everything becomes law.’ (R.M. Rilke)


  12. I can see your knowledge of your subject does your justice.. an excellent read and I see many similarities within the nature of being a Taurean myself and the script here.. I have always felt apart in many ways as I explore my own silence.. and being Clairsentient my senses are often in over-drive! ….
    A wonderful posting Monika, many thanks for directing me to your post ~Sue xx


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  20. Casey says:

    Wow, this one explains a LOT.

    My husband’s a Taurus. Regarding fertility, I was pregnant 5 times (we have three living daughters) and three of those times were in a 4 year period, so, yes, I can believe that his fertility played a big part in that.

    Regarding sensuality, we’ve been married 17 years this year and we are still enjoying that aspect of our relationship. In fact, even when we had difficulties in other areas, our sensual connection was the glue that kept us together when other factors threatened to dissolve our relationship. He’d always been more emotionally sturdy and able to tolerate my moodiness (well, for the most part). We’ve come through some really difficult times together.

    And he was being stifled as an engineer, but when he switched to massage therapy, he’s been absolutely thriving.

    I think I’m very lucky to have married him.

    I like the Krishnamurti quotes. I have a few of his books…and have appreciated his teachings.

    I love that painting…it’s really very soothing to view. And sentimental or not, I liked your description of the tree outside your window. I feel a profound connection to Nature, so I appreciate having a glimpse of it in your writing.

    Thanks for writing these. Sometime later I’ll have to read and comment about the signs my daughters are (Capricorn, Virgo and come to think of it, re-comment about Aries because my youngest daughter is Aries…which also kind of explains some things about her personality).

    Anyway…this has been interesting…thanks for sharing.



    • Thank you very much for sharing all this about your life. The Zodiac permeates our lives yet so many people fail to see it. There is more to astrology than Sun signs of course but the Sun is the centre of the solar system and should be the centre of our being as well. It is incredible that your husband is a massage therapist – a perfect job for a Taurus!


      • Casey says:

        I’m sure there’s a lot I don’t know about astrology. I do find it very intriguing, though.

        Yes, we are finding out how perfect that job is for him. My husband is becoming quite sought out these days, because he has the knowledge of body mechanics, a warm healing touch, and intuitive ability. He’s using those skills in his craniosacral therapy work too. It’s been wonderful to see the positive changes in him.

        Now if only I can find the perfect job for me…


      • That is fascinating. I wish you good luck in finding your own path.


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